A drama that leaves you asking questions, but not to the film’s advantage.


Technically competent though it is, Ariel Kleiman’s film which he co-wrote with Sarah Cyngler seems to me misjudged in almost every other respect. A warning note is sounded early on since the film begins with scenes not fully explained that suggest a wish to capitalise on a sense of mystery as to what is really going on. In itself that is a tenable approach, but Daniel Lopatin’s music score at once comes across as portentous and that makes the film seem emptier than ever when events depicted continue to remain ill-defined.

At the start Gregori (Vincent Cassel) is seen in a hospital seemingly talking to a stranger who has just given birth to Alexander. Within minutes we have moved on eleven years to find Gregori running a kind of commune filled with women and children, among them Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel) and his mother, Susanna (Florence Mezzara). The latter is now pregnant again and Gregori is the patriarchal figure in charge of everyone who treats Alexander as his son, whether he actually is so or not. The other women given shelter may have been abused, but how they came to be there is not clear and Gregori explains himself only by suggesting that he is protecting them from the outside world and its evils. On the other hand he is now priming Alexander as his first born to go out and shoot named individuals – these may be those who have mistreated the women, but we never know for sure. What we do discover is that when another boy, Leo (Alex Balaganskiy) starts to question Gregori’s orders he puts himself in jeopardy.


 Low society: Jeremy Chabriel


The situation portrayed suggests two distinct possibilities: it could be an allegory about patriarchy that deliberately breaks the bonds of naturalism (in which case it may have been influenced by Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth of  2009) but it might equally be a work intended to echo real-life cases of children brought up away from the world in an existence not of their own choosing (as in the recent documentary The Wolfpack). Unfortunately Kleiman never seems to settle for one or the other, and that leaves us unable to identify what is going on with sufficient clarity to respond to it. Instead the film exists meaninglessly in limbo and dissatisfaction is only increased by the decision to close the film with an open ending that denies us any sense of resolution.



Cast: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel, Florence Mezzara, Alex Balaganskiy.

Dir Ariel Kleiman, Pro Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw, Screenplay Sarah Cyngler and Ariel Kleiman, Ph Germain McMicking, Pro Des Sarah Cyngler and Steven Jones-Evans, Ed Jack Hutchings and Chris Wyatt, Music Daniel Lopatin, Costumes Sarah Cyngler and Maria Pattison.


Animal Kingdom/Carver Films/Warp Films Australia-Metrodome.
94 mins. Australia. 2015. Rel: 8 January 2016. Cert. 15.